The Actor and the Housewife: A Novel
by Shannon Hale
June 9th 2009 by Bloomsbury USA
Hardcover, 352 pages
159691288X (isbn13: 9781596912885)
rating: 3 of 5 stars
"Becky was seven months pregnant when she met Felix Callahan."
As you can tell from the title and the jacket flap, Becky Jack is a 34-yr-old mother of (almost) four when she meets Felix Callahan (think Hugh Jackman, only British). By the time they've shared elevator and limo rides, both of them know they have a bond. Not romantic. Not sexual. Months and years later and millions of phone call-minutes later, they agree that they're more than best friends but less than spouses.
My first inclination was to give this book four stars. It's captivating and funny. I adore Shannon Hale (Austenland, Book of a Thousand Days.) And I am grateful she accomplished what I'd long wanted: to see When Harry Met Sally disproven. Men and women can be friends, and sometimes very close friends (without their relationships being a threat to their spouses.) The Actor and the Housewife is worth reading if only because everyone needs to rethink what constitutes "intimacy" and "friendship."
However, there's much of The Actor and the Housewife that left a poor aftertaste. "Housewife?" Could we fuel the stay-at-home v. working moms fight any more? Yes, I'm a stay-at-home mom with a part-time job and a career on hold. So perhaps it's only my own feathers that get ruffled at the implausibility that Becky bakes pies every week, keeps her house relatively clean, manages her four children, still adores have sex with her husband and manages to write - on the first try - a screenplay that's snatched up by a major Hollywood studio (the setting for her meeting with Felix.)
Becky's not only a housewife, she's a Mormon housewife, and there are definite religious overtones to the book. (See this recent article about three Mormon authors: Hale, Jessica Day George, and Mette Ivie Harrison). Don't misunderstand: Hale doesn't preach. (Let's be clear about that! Hale doesn't preach.)
What she does do, however, is base the friendship of Felix and Becky on Becky's belief that "God meant it to happen." The reader has to believe Becky, because there's nothing else to connect these two. We never hear about a shared love of books or movies; they're two entirely different people, religiously. politically and socioeconomically. But if the reader is not a Mormon, or a person who believes in God (see Mormons & Christianity), or who believes God "works" in the way Becky does, then the reader is left wondering....what the heck holds these two together?
Steph Su and Jena give The Actor & The Housewife 5 Stars, Melissa liked it, too.